Friday, February 22, 2008

Canadian Association of Journalists back Steyn and Levant

Yesterday, I told you that PEN, a Canadian literary group, issued a statement calling for the federal government to remove the hate speech clause from the Canadian Human Right Act.

Today, the Canadian Association of Journalists finally weighed in on the issue.

OTTAWA, Feb. 22 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling on federal and provincial governments to amend human rights legislation to stop a pattern of disturbing attacks on freedom of speech.
Two recent cases spotlight the dangers of allowing state-backed agencies to censor speech based on subjective perceptions of offensiveness - MacLean's magazine, which is facing complaints in two provinces and nationally for an article by syndicated columnist Mark Steyn, and Ezra Levant, the former publisher of the Western Standard who is now before the Alberta Human Rights Commission for his decision to publish the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

"Human rights commissions were never intended to act as a form of thought police," said CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch. "But now they're being used to chill freedom of expression on matters that are well beyond accepted Criminal Code restrictions on free speech."

The CAJ supports Liberal MP Keith Martin's private members motion to have section 13(1) of federal human rights legislation, the clause dealing with published material, repealed. Similar provincial legislation should also be amended as required.

The tide is really turning in Canada now. Thanks to all the Americans who have helped keep this a major issue in the blogosphere and on talk radio in the U.S.

The CAJ also had this to say about the Conservative government and other federal parties that have failed to step up and take a position on Martin's motion.

"The lack of political leadership on this issue, apart from Mr. Martin and a few others, is appalling," said Welch.

To quote Mark Steyn from The Corner today:

C'mon, Prime Minister, why be the last guy to jump on the bandwagon?

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